128. Letter From the Director of the United States Information Agency (Murrow) to the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Hilsman)1

Dear Roger:

Your suggestion that USIA undertake certain propaganda activities indicating that Communist North Viet-Nam is falling increasingly under Communist Chinese influence is and has been under serious consideration for some time. As you know, my people have been talking with representatives of the Working Group/Viet-Nam about this project for several months. In January there was an exchange of memoranda between Bill Jorden and Burnett Anderson, our Deputy Assistant Director (Policy and Plans) on this subject.2

I agree that the best way to handle this would be “by highlighting every visit or program between North Viet-Nam and Communist China and by frequently citing the innumerable instances in Vietnamese history when the Chinese have sought to or have actually gained control of Viet-Nam.” We believe, however, that this will be a difficult thing to handle and should, if attempted, remain under constant and careful review. It should be done principally through editorial selection and emphasis in news output. As Burnett Anderson stated in his memo to Bill Jorden of January 25, the best way for USIA to plug this line aside from appropriate handling of spot news would be to prepare and place in some South Vietnamese publication an article or series of articles on the background of Sino-Vietnamese relations—articles which could be picked up and replayed by VOA with proper attribution to Vietnamese sources. It must be recognized that the only way USIA can reach audiences in North Viet-Nam is by radio, and we must constantly [Page 333] keep in mind that anything which VOA broadcasts in the Vietnamese language can be heard by listeners in both North and South Viet-Nam.

Our VOA Vietnamese specialists have pointed out that there are possible pitfalls in such an operation. In emphasizing that VOA Vietnamese broadcasts are heard in both North and South, they point out that emphasis on DRV-Chicom partnership may only serve to increase the dimensions of the threat that looms from the North. Since one of our propaganda objectives in South Viet-Nam has been to dispel the illusion that the Viet Cong are “ten feet tall,” unless very carefully handled the addition of the Chinese factor into the equation in propaganda output might prove counter-productive. Even the traditional ethnic enmity between the two races and the Vietnamese fear of the Chinese may be overshadowed by the elements of sheer power and geographic propinquity involved.

It should perhaps be further pointed out that with over one million Chinese residents in South Viet-Nam who will also hear these broadcasts, we must exercise caution in emphasizing any traditional enmity between the two races per se, but rather concentrate on the present Chinese Communist regime.

VOA also raises the question: Even if we succeed in tarring Ho Chi Minh with the brush of Chicom satellitism, can we persuade the people of North Viet-Nam that they have any realistic alternative to coming to terms with the Chicoms while they still have a chance? After all, they say, Communist China is doing pretty well in its contest with the Soviets, and its victory over India3 proved that it’s also doing pretty well with its “adventurist” foreign policy.

In setting forth the foregoing caveats, I do not mean to imply that the project should not be undertaken; I only wish to emphasize that it is a difficult and delicate undertaking which must be carefully planned and constantly reviewed.

As a matter of information policy, we can begin immediately, in VOA news output, to lay a heavier emphasis upon all evidences of DRV-Chicom collaboration and less emphasis upon DRV-Soviet contacts. Further projects, such as placement of materials in Vietnamese publications and subsequent replay on the Vietnamese service of VOA naturally take considerably longer.

If you agree that even despite the aforementioned possible pitfalls, we should begin using VOA for this purpose, please let me know.

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Incidentally, we have within the past few months begun to devote considerably more attention to conditions in North Viet-Nam in our VOA broadcasts.

With regard to your request for information on VOA and South Vietnamese capacity to broadcast into North Viet-Nam, VOA states that the Voice of America short-wave signal in North Viet-Nam is 100 per cent receivable in terms of programs and 90 per cent in terms of frequencies. There is no jamming. There are no frequencies rated as unsatisfactory. The medium wave broadcasts relayed from our transmitters in the Philippines are rated 100 per cent receivable in all respects.

The GVN broadcast capabilities to North Viet-Nam are as follows:

Radio Hue: Medium wave 20 KW, 670 KC, primary radius 48 miles, secondary radius 100 miles; short wave, 20 KW, 9670 KC, operates daily beamed to North Viet-Nam.

Saigon medium wave 50 KW, 870 KC. Primary radius 106 miles, secondary radius 200 miles plus. Short wave 40 KW, 7245 KC. There is no information available here on Republic of Viet-Nam’s broadcast reception in North Viet-Nam.4

Sincerely,

Edward R. Murrow 5
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 306, DIRCTR Sub Files, 1963–69, Bx 6–29 63–69: Acc: #72A5121, Entry UD WW 257, Box 8, FIELD—Far East (IAF) 1963. Secret. Drafted by Tull on May 28. Cleared by Payeff, Bunce, and Anderson. Murrow’s letter is in response to a May 6 letter from Hilsman, in which Hilsman sought Murrow’s views on his suggestion of “a steady, low-key, and continuing propaganda campaign, particularly through Vietnamese media, to the effect that North Viet-Nam is falling increasingly under Communist Chinese influence.” According to Hilsman: “I suggest such a campaign could be carried on by highlighting every visit or program between North Viet-Nam and Communist China and by frequently citing the innumerable instances in Vietnamese history when the Chinese have sought to or have actually gained control of Viet-Nam.” (Ibid.) In an undated memorandum to Moore, transmitting a copy of Hilsman’s letter, Wilson termed Hilsman’s rationale “excellent” and requested that Moore draft a reply. (Ibid)
  2. Not found.
  3. Reference is to the border conflict between China and India that occurred in October and November 1962. For documentation, see Foreign Relations, 1961–1963, vol. XIX, South Asia, Documents 174214.
  4. In a July 12 letter, Hilsman replied to Murrow: “I agree that the program should be undertaken with all the care and caveats which your letter so clearly sets forth.” (National Archives, RG 306, DIRCTR Sub Files, 1963–69, Bx 6–29 63–69: Acc: #72A5121, Entry UD WW 257, Box 8, FIELD—Far East (IAF) 1963)
  5. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.